With more than 280 attendees, the Whitby Chamber of Commerce’s annual Connect Women conference welcomed the largest crowd in its nine-year history. This year’s event, Connect Women: Hindsight is 2020 presented by Beauty Foundations Clinic and The Vein & Laser Centre, took a look at the pinnacle moments in life that shape career successes, failures and great lessons.
Kicking off the day of celebrating women in business was Stephanie Florio, co-founder of Swob Inc., a mobile recruitment application designed to make student job searching and recruitment easier. Swob is the first of its kind to target students in high-turnover industries such as retail and food service for part-time, seasonal and full-time employment. In May 2018, Swob was named the first-ever Canadian company to win Richard Branson and Virgin Mobile Canada’s Pitch to Rich contest. Starting Swob Inc. with her brother, Florio shared that she threw work-life balance out the window and instead focuses on what she calls work-life integration.
“Sure, Saturdays are my days,” explained Florio. “But if I’m in the mall and see students handing out a stack of paper resumes, I can’t help but to stop and talk to them – work-life integration.”
A panel of local professionals from a wide array of experience and industries took the stage to share advice they wished they’d been given earlier in their careers, the consensus from the panellists being to reach out for help and use the resources available. Another theme voiced by the panellists and speakers throughout the day was for individuals to harness the lessons they learned from their pasts and use them to move forward rather then dwelling on mistakes or failures.
“Fail forward,” said Sarah Klein, Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Town of Whitby. Fellow panellists included Jody Swain, founder of Hire and Fire Your Kids; Dana Reedman, owner of Inspired by Rossland Optical; and Yvette Nechvatal-Drew, Executive Director of Girls Inc. Durham. Keeping the panel on track and tying together their perspectives was multi-passionate entrepreneur and Founder of My Empowered Living and Bossurike, Uchechi Ezurike-Bosse.
These statements were echoed by guest speaker Siobhan Calderbank, Director of Talent Management at LCBO. “If you dwell too much on the past it can become an anchor,” said Calderbank. “Looking in the past isn’t always a bad thing – you need to learn from those mistakes. But eventually you need to leap forward.”
Also sharing her insights was Dr. Carolyn McGregor. Dr. McGregor is the Research Excellence Chair in Health Informatics, Chair in Artificial Intelligence for Health and Wellness and a two-time Canada Research Chair in Health Informatics based at Ontario Tech University. She has led pioneering research in Big Data analytics, artificial intelligence, deep learning, internet of things, temporal data mining and cloud computing. She now progresses this research within the context of critical care medicine, precision public health, mental health, astronaut health, and military and civilian tactical training.
Wrapping up the day of reflection was keynote speaker and broadcast journalist Susan Hay. Hay reflected on her 30-year career with Global News, sharing anecdotes from her journey and reflecting on the many changes to the landscape for women in media over the past few decades as she’s worked her way from weather anchor to her current position as anchor/producer of Making a Difference, a popular early evening news segment that profiles inspirational people and organizations throughout the GTA who are positively impacting the lives of others.
“I just think you need to be yourself and have a voice,” said Hay to young professionals in the audience. “You need to believe in you.”